Bionic Hand Provides 'Lifelike' Sensations, Like Luke Skywalker's
A new bionic hand allows the patient to feel "lifelike" sensations when implanted onto the arm. The hand is attached directly to the nervous system by electrodes clipped onto the main nerves of the arm.
Dr Silvestro Micera, of the Swiss-based Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, who helped develop the limb’s interface, said: ‘This is real hope for amputees. It will be the first prosthetic that will provide real-time sensory feedback for grasping.
‘It is clear that the more sensory feeling an amputee has, the more likely they will get full acceptance of that limb. We hope that one day it will be embedded in the arm and the user will just forget it is there.’
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual conference in Boston, he said the team plans to transplant the new hand into an anonymous patient in Rome later this year. The only details known about the recipient is that they are in their 20s and have lost the lower part of their arm following an accident.
If the hand works as planned, it could be available for use within two years.
Science fiction fans were shown this idea at the end of the 1980 film Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (*spoiler alert!*). In the film's final battle, Darth Vader cuts Luke Skywalker's hand off. It is replaced by droid surgeons. In the video below, the robotic hand demonstrates sensation when poked by the surgeon (start at about 0:20 seconds below):
Many people of my generation remember this scene vividly; it's incredible that scientists and engineers will make this fictional scene reality in just thirty-five years.